Schedule Jobs the Easy Way
The latest version of SmartBatch helps you centralize and streamline Windows job scheduling.
- By Bill Heldman
There's an endless array of jobs you must run to manage today's intricate,
multi-platform environments. You might have one batch file that routinely deletes
temp. files from your servers, another that periodically extracts data from
a mainframe, and a script file that performs a whole series of complex tasks.
1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
Most of these jobs connect to a host of different systems, manage just about
every type of file, run on a variety of schedules and have all sorts of outcomes.
So how do you rope all these activities into a single framework that you can
easily manage from a central location?
That's where SmartBatch 2006 comes in.
The folks at OnlineToolWorks clearly get what it means to be a busy
Windows administrator. They know the things you'll need and -- just as important -- the
things you don't need. There is a "quick-up-and-running" sensibility built into
SmartBatch. The installation process is simple. You can be fully functional
in virtually no time. It comes in a Standard and Enterprise edition. The primary
difference between the two is that the Enterprise edition supports agent-based
operations across your entire fleet of servers.
SmartBatch has an eloquent interface (see Figure 1). It's easy to understand
and navigate and still comes with plenty of tutorial screens to help you along
the way. I particularly liked the SmartBatch multimedia overview because it
lets you watch the keystrokes required to assemble your jobs into a cohesive
SmartBatch doesn't help you craft your own batch files or scripts. The assumption
is that you've already done that work up front. When you have assembled a collection
of pre-scripted tasks that you're ready to run, SmartBatch helps you generate
numerous different schedules and tie them to your job scheduling operations.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|Figure 1. The SmartBatch interface is easy to navigate and includes plenty of options for specifying job parameters.
The idea is relatively straightforward: First you create your computer groups and schedules. Then set up your operations -- these are the batch files, scripts or programs you need to run. Next, you'll want to group similar operations into a single step. Then group multiple steps into a single job. When you're finished, you'll have multiple jobs running, all working from different calendars, and configured to notify you or another designee (the Enterprise edition has different user designations that allow for more granular security control) of operational status.
Suppose you want to free up disk space on your file servers by periodically
purging unnecessary files and unused data. The data sits on three different
computers, and you have a variety of user and database files occupying the space
on those servers. Here's how you might work out a SmartBatch job scheduling
routine (note that you'll need the Enterprise Edition of SmartBatch 2006 and
a remote agent for each computer):
- Create a group that includes the computers on which you need to work.
- Create a calendar with the days and times you want to run your jobs.
- Set up each operation (see Figure 2) so it initiates a single maneuver you
wish to perform. For this example, I call a command window and pass in the
command to delete all temp files from the volume's C drive.
- You'll need a second operation to purge the D drive. You could also create
a batch file with the necessary commands and call it from the operation instead.
- Create an operation that calls stored procedure(s) to groom your database
- Once all operations are in place, link them together as steps.
- Create a job that ropes in all your file-server grooming steps.
- Repeat the process for other automation operations.
- Assign an operator to monitor your jobs and select notification options.
You can perform the same operations on either a computer group or a single
computer, especially when it's a globally applicable operation. For example,
you could do the above temp file delete operation on a pre-defined group because
it's almost a given that every computer has a C drive with .TMP files to delete.
[Click on image for larger view.]
|Figure 2. The operational
schedules and procedures set the parameters within which your jobs will
With the SmartBatch Standard Edition, the idea is that you're only going
to use it on the machine upon which it is installed. With the Enterprise Edition,
you get extensibility, which lets you run SmartBatch operations on multiple
computers, each of which has to have an agent installed.
If there are any showstoppers or problems with SmartBatch, it is the agent issue. Many administrators are hesitant to install an agent component on a server because it may introduce new problems. Agentless management software is often weak in the knees, so I can see why OnlineToolWorks felt it could only provide sufficient performance by using onboard agents.
The Enterprise Edition also lets you use SQL
Server as the database
for the SmartBatch job scheduling data. However, by default, both the Standard and Enterprise editions use MSDE, which is a huge plus.
Both editions of SmartBatch support notification, native Windows and Web administration interfaces, dependencies, error recovery, .NET programming interfaces, and a "Runbook" -- a place where
you can detail instructions for the folks who will run and troubleshoot the jobs you've established. This last element is a very mainframe-like capability to carefully monitor your operations. The Enterprise edition includes a Diagram View (similar to Microsoft Operations Manager), fault-tolerance and load-balancing, as well as
Finding Free Time
If you're an administrator grappling with numerous job-scheduling operations
-- whether they're scripts, batch files or executables -- SmartBatch can be
a big help. The simplicity and centralization is well worth the price of admission.
With careful planning and attention to detail, you can set up a job-scheduling
environment that will free up your time for more important tasks.
If you're just beginning to use batch files and scripts to lasso in those infernal
manual operations, get them ready and then try SmartBatch. It was designed and
written by a long-time Microsoft-friendly company that truly understands the
needs of Windows administrators.
Bill Heldman www.billheldman.com is an instructor at Warren Tech, a career and technical education high-school in Lakewood, Colorado. He is a contributor to Redmond, MCP Magazine and several other Windows magazines, plus several books for Sybex, including CompTIA IT Project+ Study Guide.